The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening Tools, Equipment and Buildings
Chapter: Chapter 4: Utensils (Pots, Cases, Cans, Fumigators)

Wardian case

Previous - Next

1827. Ward's plant cases. About 1829 Mr. Ward, a surgeon, living in one of the closest parts of London, having buried the chrysalis of a sphinx in some moist mould contained in a wide-mouthed glass bottle covered with a lid, found that the moisture which rose during the heat of the day from the mould, became condensed on the internal surface of the glass, and returned whence it came, thus keeping the mould always in the same degree of humidity; and in time a seedling fern, and a grass, made their appearance on the surface of the mould. Mr. Ward was very much interested in this, as he had been endeavouring for many years to grow ferns in the court-yard of his house in Wellclose Square, but always without success. He determined to preserve these plants in the same bottle as long as they would live; and he kept them there four years, the grass flowering once, and the fern producing three or four fronds every year. At last they were killed by the rusting of the lid of the bottle, and the accidental admission of rainwater. Mr. Ward then tried some experiments on a larger scale; and he had a bottle of ferns sent to him from the Mauritius, which arrived in perfect vigour. Mr. Ward next built a kind of greenhouse opposite one of his staircase windows, and filled it with plants of various kinds, most of which succeeded exceedingly well. Various other cases were afterwards formed, generally with complete success. About the year 1833, Mr. Ward made his first experiment of applying his cases to the preservation of plants on shipboard; and in the beginning of June in that year, he filled two cases with ferns, grasses, &c., and sent them to Sydney, where they arrived, with the exception of two or three ferns, in a very vigorous state. No trouble was taken with them, excepting once they had a slight sprinkling of water during very hot weather near the equator; and they grew so much during the voyage, that they seemed, as Captain Mallard expresses it, as if attempting to push off the top of the box. 'The cases were refilled at Sydney,' Mr. Ward continues, 'in the month of February, 1834, the thermometer then being between 90ᆭ and 100ᆭ. In their passage to England they encountered very varying temperatures. The thermometer fell to 20ᆭ in rounding Cape Horn, and the decks were covered a foot deep with snow. At Rio Janeiro the thermometer rose to 100ᆭ, and in crossing the line to 120ᆭ. In the month of November, eight months after their departure, they arrived in the British Channel, the thermometer then being as low as 40ᆭ. These plants were placed upon the deck during the whole voyage, and were not once watered, yet on their arrival at the docks they were in the most healthy and vigorous condition,' Plants were afterwards sent out to Egypt, and various other places, with perfect success; and even coffee plants, which are generally difficult to transplant from one place to another, live perfectly well in these cases. The cases which are now used for the transfer of plants on board ship consist of a wooden box, six or eight inches deep, and a glazed frame with a ridged roof, so contrived that light may be admitted freely to all parts of the growing plants. The glazed frames should be well painted and puttied some time before they are required for use, in order that when they are put together they may be sufficiently tight to retain all the moisture that is within the case, and to exclude any moisture from without. Especial care should be taken that the soil used be that in which the plants usually grow, and that all superfluous moisture should be drained from it, as luxuriance of growth is not to be desired. 'Another point deserving of attention is to associate plants together of equal or nearly equal rapidity of growth. Thus, palms and coniferous plants will travel well together;' but if any free-growing plants are introduced, the probability is, that the slow-growing plants will perish from a deficiency of light. 'A great number of plants will travel well in these cases if merely suspended from the roof, such as numerous species of Orchideᄉ, Cacti, &c. When on board, all the care which is requisite is to keep the plants constantly in the light, to remove incrustations of salt or dirt, and immediately to repair any damage done to the glass, either with fresh glass if on board, or with tin or wood.' (Ward on the Growth of Plants in closely glazed Cases, p. 51.)